Charles Blackman is one of Australia’s most celebrated and significant figurative artists and was an exceptional draughtsperson. His use of pen and ink, charcoal and pencil – from quick sketches to large sized works on paper – was a constant throughout his life. His drawings bear evidence of the personal nature of his art, used to record ideas, capture daily life, and explore composition in an expressive manner. There is, of course, an immediacy to drawings, particularly black and white images with no distractions other than the dark line across a page.
The 1960s saw Blackman complete a number of strong graphic works, many depicting his family, particularly with the arrival of his son Auguste in 1957 and daughter, Christabel, in 1959. In 1960 Blackman was awarded the Helena Rubenstein prize and selected to exhibit in the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where the Blackman family moved before returning to Australia in 1967, when this drawing was completed.
Portrait of a Young Girl with a Bow in her Hair is a direct and sweet work, full of love and the innocence of childhood, with the child directly engaging the viewer. There is a calm and gentleness to the drawing, perhaps emphasized through the use of charcoal with its richness of texture and softer edge than pen or pencil. As McCulloch noted when the work was exhibited in 1994, “Interesting to contrast is 1967’s Young Girl with a Bow with 1984’s Beatrice Drawing on Herself – both drawings of his two daughters at the same age. The latter has a saccharine sweetness absent in the earlier, more direct but equally delicious work.” (Susan McCulloch, ‘The bush characters’, Herald Sun, Melbourne, 20 April 1994, p. 7)
Blackman is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and in all state galleries, as well as numerous regional and university galleries, in addition to private and corporate collections throughout Australia and internationally. He was awarded an OBE in 1997 and honoured with a survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Schoolgirls and Angels, in 1993.